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Athlete abuse watchdog starts series of hearings on Larry Nassar case and beyond

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The Game Over commission, a group founded by child-abuse prevention think tank CHILD USA, is taking its first major step in an independent investigation of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case and related institutional issues with a public hearing Monday in Philadelphia.

The daylong hearing is being live-streamed.

After a series of hearings and other investigative work, Game Over plans to come up with a list of recommendations to reform U.S. sports. Once the work is complete, its data will be available to the public.

The hearing opens this morning with testimony from abuse survivors. This afternoon at 1:15 p.m. ET, the session will move into a discussion of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the evolution of SafeSport efforts. At 2:30 p.m. ET, a panel of journalists will describe how they investigated reports of abuse, including the Nassar case.

Nassar has been sentenced to multiple lengthy prison sentences in the wake of sexual abuse accusations by hundreds of gymnasts. Michigan State University, which employed Nassar, reached a $500 million settlement in 2018 with the 332 survivors who had come forward at that time.

Prominent sexual abuse complaints have also been raised in other Olympic sports, including swimming, diving, taekwondo, figure skating and speedskating.

Concurrently, Olympic sports federations launched various internal watchdog efforts and in 2017 established the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a body akin to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

The cases have been investigated multiple times so far. In July, U.S. senators Jerry Moran and Richard Blumenthal released a report summing up their investigation and wrote the Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2019, which would give Congress direct oversight over U.S. sports federations. The bill has not advanced out of committee. Neither have overlapping bills by Rep. Diana DeGette and Sen. Cory Gardner.

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World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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